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Judges' Page Newsletter

Judicial Leadership and Judicial Ethics Relating to CASA/GAL Programs

Related Publications

Podcast: "Technology and Advocacy," featuring Sharon Nelson, CASA volunteer and the 2013 president of the Virginia State Bar

Blog: "The Baby Veronica Case: A Judge's Perspective," featuring Judge Dean Lewis, editor of The Judges' Page.

Find additional publications and websites in the "Advocacy Resources" section of this website.

The Judges' Page newsletter is published by the National CASA Association and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

Judge J. Dean LewisJuly 2013

J. Dean Lewis, Judge (retired)
Former Member, National CASA Association Board of Trustees
Past President, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges



In this issue of the Judges’ Page, two past presidents of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Hon. Leonard Edwards (ret.) and Hon. Thomas Hornsby (ret.) share their vast knowledge and experience on the topic of judicial ethics in their article,"CASA Programs and Judicial Ethics" (335 KB PDF).

Editor's Introduction:

The Conference of Chief Justices passed a resolution in 2000 encouraging judges to become involved in their communities to improve the quality of justice. The first CASA program was started by a judge, and judges continue to play an important role in creating, sustaining and expanding CASA/GAL programs.

On the one hand, the judge is challenged to be a strong judicial leader who is able to convene the community in order to develop resources to meet the needs of children and families involved in dependency court proceedings. On the other, the same judge's activities in exercising judicial leadership must be guided by judicial ethics. It is helpful to review the four canons of the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct (2011 edition) that establish the framework for acceptable judicial leadership:

  • Canon 1
    A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.
  • Canon 2
    A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently, and diligently.
  • Canon 3
    A judge shall conduct the judge's personal and extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with the obligations of judicial office.
  • Canon 4
    A judge or candidate for judicial office shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity or impartiality of the judiciary.

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) has dealt with the issue of balancing judicial leadership and judicial ethics since its establishment in 1937. NCJFCJ has consistently promoted judicial leadership that is exercised within the framework of the ABA Model Code. In this issue of the Judges’ Page, two past presidents of NCJFCJ share their vast knowledge and experience on the topic.

Judge Leonard Edwards (ret.) and Judge Thomas Hornsby (ret.) have extensively researched the canons of judicial conduct, commentary and advisory opinions that impact the relationship between the juvenile court judge and the CASA program. In their article, "CASA Programs and Judicial Ethics" (335 KB PDF), they present factual scenarios the judge may encounter. Their guidance in this area is an invaluable tool for judges and CASA programs alike.

For additional information on the leadership role of the dependency court judge and ethical considerations in creating, sustaining and expanding CASA programs, readers are referred to the Judges' Guide to CASA/GAL Program Development (1.63 MB PDF), a publication jointly sponsored by the National CASA Association and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

Indian Child Welfare Act Blog

Judge Lewis offers summary and analysis of the recent ruling in the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl in this guest blog. Read it now.

National CASA Judge of the Year

We also invite you to read about the National CASA Association 2013 Judge of the Year, Hon. Kathy Delgado of Colorado’s 17th Judicial District. Judge Delgado’s collaborative spirit, innovative leadership and passion for improving the lives of abused and neglected children were recognized with an Award of Excellence at the National CASA conference held in Anaheim this spring. Read more about Judge Delgado.

The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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